Is the 2021 Toyota Venza Any Better Than the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?

The introduction of a revived Toyota Venza in the crossover market where Toyota already sees significant success with its RAV4 Hybrid has auto critics scratching their heads. The return of the Venza, discontinued a little bit ahead of its time six years ago, represents a rare trend for Toyota. The question begging to be answered is if the Toyota Venza is better than the RAV4 Hybrid?

The unveiling of the 2021 Toyota Venza

Something of a shock to the automobile world, a quick overview of the new Toyota Venza reveals a number of savvy design features. It starts off with a sharper more aggressive look than most critics have come to expect from Toyota.

The 2021 Venza features a smarter hybrid powertrain with dual AWD, a combined horsepower of 219 hp, and fuel efficiency around 40 mpg, facilitated by its Predicted Efficiency Drive (PED) function. The Venza continues Toyota’s commitment to achieving top marks in NHTSA safety with Safety Sense 2.0 as a standard feature.

Interior features in the 2021 model demonstrate plenty of tech savvy combined with a departure from Toyota’s typical blandness often attributed to the carmaker’s designs.

How the 2021 Venza stacks up against the RAV4 Hybrid

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It is certainly exciting to see Toyota step up its game with an edgier design, but the Venza’s real test is how it stacks up against their already successful RAV4 Hybrid. Is the Venza nothing more than an overpriced RAV4, or does it include unique value with added features to justify it as an enhanced alternative to its esteemed brother? MotorTrend did a deep dive to help us compare.

Though the Venza features more aggressive lines, both of these SUVs are representatives of the crossover class with five-passenger seating in two rows and roughly the same size. Both include cutting-edge hybrid powertrain technology. Toyota offers RAV4 with a hybrid or traditional powertrain while Venza has a pure hybrid design.

What is driving these cars? Basically, the same Toyota Hybrid System 2.0, which includes a 219-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with three electric motors and a CVT transmission. Both include electronic on-demand all-wheel drive, which engages an additional rear-wheel drive when the system detects slippage. Because both models include the same powertrain, their 40 mpg fuel economy is identical.

The Toyota Venza and RAV4 sit on the same TNGA platform, the same suspension setup, and an equivalent 105.9-inch wheelbase. Consequently, legroom and cargo space are nearly identical but with the Venza adding about 6 more inches to its length. This is where many of their similarities end.

The Toyota Venza steps up the level of luxury with greater seating comfort and improvements to sound-deadening materials between the cabin and engine, wheel arches, and headliner. Only the Venza offers an optional electrochromic glass roof panel similar to those found in Mercedes-Benz models.

The 2021 Venza will include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 active safety features as well as standard infotainment features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa personal assistant integration. Both offer infotainment upgrades, but the Venza’s touchscreen option is a bit larger.

Since they sit on the same frame and suspension system, include the same powertrain features, size, and wheelbase, it is doubtful that there will be any detectable performance difference. Both are designed as smooth-road SUVs rather than featuring the off-road durability of other Toyota models designed for that niche, but the RAV4 does have a bit of an edge with its available TRD model, which is not part of the plan for Venza.

Is the Toyota Venza carving out a unique space in the Toyota lineup?

Because nearly everything is identical, critics question whether Venza is carving out a unique space in the Toyota lineup. The same question often arises in relation to the difference between nearly identical models produced by Ford and Lincoln.

With the 2021 Venza, Toyota is departing from its reputation for producing a bland, dependable, economically priced driving appliance with an unprecedented move toward luxury. Automobile shoppers will have to decide for themselves if improved riding, reduced cabin noise, better infotainment, and that more aggressive looks are worth the extra price they will pay for Venza.